Aaron Long has edged out Chad Marshall to win the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year, carrying the player and media voting blocs. Although Marshall won the club vote, Long won the overall vote 26.52%—20.93% despite his teammate Kemar Lawrence also finishing in the top five. Long anchored a Red Bulls backline that led the league in goals allowed and won the Supporters’ Shield.
Long, who played for the Sounders in 2014 and for S2 in 2015, has been on a rather impressive trajectory since joining the New York Red Bulls organization in 2016. Now 26, Long won USL Defender of the Year in 2016, was a full-time starter for the Red Bulls in 2017 and recent earned his first United States National Team cap.
When Long first signed with the Sounders after being cut by the Portland Timbers, he was playing as more of a defensive mid. In what would turn out to be a visionary decision, the Sounders moved Long to centerback for the inaugural S2 season, where he was one of the standouts.
Despite a strong performance, Long was allowed to leave the organization. It wasn’t exactly clear why, but he was 23 and S2 seemed intent on going with a much younger roster. Long was also blocked on the first team by the likes of Marshall, Román Torres and Brad Evans. Given the roster ahead of him, it’s unlikely Long would have found many minutes with the Sounders.
In the Red Bulls, Long found an organization that played almost perfectly into his strengths. Long is more athletic and technical than physical, but that works well in the Red Bulls’ pressing style.